Drought could cost economy $1b

Last updated 09:09 07/03/2013

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The big dry affecting large parts of the country could cost the economy $1 billion dollars, the Government has warned.

Yesterday Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy officially extended the declaration of drought, already in place in Northland, to cover South Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Hawke's Bay.

There are calls for the designation, which allows affected farmers to get financial support, to be extended further to cover Rangitikei and Manawatu.

Speaking to reporters as he travels with Prime Minister John Key in South America, Guy said an early estimate of the cost of the drought was $1 billion dollars.

"It's a little bit early to give you a definitive figure, but I would envisage it's in the region of $1 billion dollars, and that's why the government's reacting and providing some support to farmers," he said in comments reported by Radio New Zealand.

"That's of course emotional support, because it's a very stressful time, and also there'll be farmers out there in degrees of hardship, but they can turn up to MSD [the Ministry of Social Development] and get some financial support as well."

Banks have also announced support measures for farmers in drought affected areas, including suspending principal repayments and waiving bank fees.

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